Thursday, December 27, 2007

A great, rip-roaring fantasy adventure

I devoured this book in an afternoon. (Luckily the baby was especially nursey today...)

It's wonderful-- I grew up on the Pern books, but I think this book left McCaffery in the dust. Napoleonic Wars+ dragons and a naval captain unwillingly pressed into service--- I thought this was much more compelling then Lessa's story. And the dragons are more interesting people than the dragons of Pern......

My husbands bringing books #2 and 3 home for me this afternoon.... what fun!

Also, thanks to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit for mentioning these books a few months back--- he's not only a great political blogger, he has GREAT taste in SciFi/ Fantasy...... If I could only visit one blog a day, it would be his!

Writing Resolutions

1. Work on breaking into the non-fiction market:

Should be fun since Highlights included Ancient History on its wish list.

2. Get to know Google Books.

I just discovered how awesome this site is! Especially for research. Interlibrary loan costs me a dollar a book, and costs my local library even more. It can be kind of expensive. But with Google books, I can see if books will actually be useful before I ILL them. And if they only have a page or two of relevant info, I can just read them on line, for free, and take notes!

I can't believed I lived before without it!

3. Finish a MG novel. I need to acquire the discipline to write longer works. The only thing to do is to sit down and do it.

4. Make a "Useful Resources" list for this blog, so that it's actually useful to other people.

We'll see how well I keep to these. Right now I'm working on 1,2, and 3.......

Friday, December 21, 2007

What I'm reading.....

But it's for RESEARCH! So it's work, right?

(One thing I've learned -- in classic comics, it's OK if the super villains just happen to forget and leave their weapons at home one day.... real smooth, Dr. Fear. And Mr. Lee? I have a feeling that if I wrote that into a children's book as a deus ex machina, I'd get totally SLAMMED by the editors.... But it's all good, clean, switch-off-the-lights and fight in the dark fun! =) )

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why we haven't sent out Christmas cards yet...

The kids were feeling a bit too hammy. And scaring their little brother to death.

Plan B: Take a camera to Mass on Christmas Eve, have a friend snap a picture of the whole family around the creche afterwards....

Besides -- If the pope can leave his tree up until Lent, surely we can send Christmas Cards in January!

Friday, December 7, 2007

How I Wish Catholic Politicians Would Present Themselves

I saw this over at the [ Corner on the National Review]:

Running on faith, 1906 version [Mark Steyn]
I rather like this approach, from Jeremy Lott's advice to Mitt:

In 1906, Britain's Liberal party nominated man of letters Hillaire Belloc to stand for election as an MP in Salford. It was a throwaway nomination - Belloc was a French immigrant to the UK, only recently naturalized, and he was a Catholic running in an area that was heavily Methodist and that had never gone Liberal. Rather than trying to work around his religion,
as his campaign manager had advised, Belloc took the
occasion of "papist" taunts to make a memorable point.

According to literary journalist William Bryk, Belloc announced to a "packed hall" of constituents:
"Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every
day." He reached into his pocket, pulled something out, and told them, "This is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these
beads, every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative!"
An "absolute silence" was soon ended when the crowd "exploded with
applause." Belloc won, first as a Liberal MP then as an independent candidate.

On an added note, I HIGHLY Reccomend Belloc's Cautionary Verses. It includes such old favorites as "Jim, Who Ran Away From His Nurse and Was Eaten By a Lion." The Illustrations are also mildly twisted.

I got my copy at Powell's Books in Chicago-- I checked Amazon, It looks like it's out of print, so good luck finding it.

But in terms of warped children's literature, Belloc really belongs right up there with Edgar Gorey. =)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

One Last Thing

I got a request from an editor for VERY SPECIFIC CHANGES to a story I wrote! I'm over the moon because it's a magazine I've been working really hard to break into.

I always think it's funny when an editor offers suggestions, because the tone is often very deferential--- as if they're afraid of offending by asking me to change my story.....

And I always wonder, "What sort of psychopaths have you had to deal with?"

My thought on editors is that they have their jobs because their good at them. And if they suggest changes, it's usually with good reason and I should swallow my pride and at least TRY to make them work.

But maybe I'm just a flagrant sell-out.

But if the changes really were impossible, I wouldn't make them.... And so far, every time I've taken an editor's advice and then re-read the finished product, the editor has been dead-on.

Plus, since I can't afford ICL, this is a great way to get professional advice for merely the cost of a SASE!

A few reasons why

I prefer children's and YA to adult books, as a rule:

1. When I pick up a children's or YA novel by an author I don't know, it's usually at least worth finishing, and often worth recommending or discussing.

When I browse through new adult books, most aren't that great. I can judge mysteries and Sci Fi by their covers, but literary fiction is a lot more chancy.

2. They're short. So are the chapters. So they fit more easily into my life.

I'm deaf while I'm reading, but come up for air at the end of chapters. So short chapters mean that I don't inadvertently neglect the toddler.

3. They're better edited.

Children's and YA books tend to be very tightly written. (with a few exceptions). I can't STAND it when I'm reading a novel and every fiber of my being is screaming "Where was her editor????" Novels should not be for skimming.

4. The authors of YA seem to do really neat things with POV.

The first person YA novels I read are fun because it's almost like your in a conversation with the narrator... you get their perceptions of events and then you argue with them and challenge them.....

5. Reading them counts as "work" in my twisted world....

Because since I write for kids, it's not really goofing off to read these books. It's market research. right? Right?

Ok... so it's fun too. I really envy the YA librarians who HAVE to read this for professional development and book groups!

Virus Season

Well, we had a week of fevers and vomit, but I think life may be approaching normal again. The kids have their energy back and are dying to play in the snow --I'm still sick and exhausted.

But last night I finally got to read Thirteen Reasons Why.

I don't ususally like "Teen Suicide Novels" but this one was great! I especially liked (without any spoilers) how it showed the self-centeredness at the center of depression. Clay, the main character, was a truly likeable person, which helped make the book readable, even though it was about an audio suicide note.

I'd be interested to know more about Hannah's background-- her descent into madness didn't seem quite as realistic as Sylvia Plath's unless you imagine a more complex backstory that tainted her perceptions of the events in the novel...

But it's a book that BEGS to be discussed. Maybe I'll head on over to the SCBWI website later today and see if anyone's started a discussion of it......

Sunday, November 25, 2007


People who had babies often picture them as seeds, slowly growing and opening to the world. Most babies actually change in fits and starts… Baby #3 has been more like an exploding firework.

In the last two weeks he’s gone from sleepy, hungry and very introverted to Mr. Social Explorer.

He smiles, he laughs, he coos. He likes watching new things. He likes people. He spent ½ of church today smiling at another family’s toddler.

He’s interested in his environment. When he’s fussy, I can distract him by giving him a new object to touch. He kicks at toys on his boppy play gym. He encourages his sisters in their antics, and they vie for his grins.

He still eats and sleeps a lot. But now he talks in his sleep. Everything about him announces “Hello World! Here I am! I’m going to find out all about you!”

(He also thinks I’m funny. For some reason this morning the phrase “Finding the inner you by sculpting in Poo” was particularly hilarious. (I was commenting on the inane offerings of some retreat houses… I think he just likes the rhythm and rhyme. I’ll have to get back into writing baby poems so he can be perpetually entertained…..)

I’ll post some pictures later this week….

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I think I'm getting better at writing them. We'll have to see if the latest round get any response.

I'm trying to follow Editorial Anonymous's suggestion about what a query letter needs to include: What the book is about, What happens, and Why I'm qualified to write it.

Though for a 110-word rhymed Picture Book, #1 is awfully hard.

At least I'm back in the game. Baby #3 is now strong enough that I can type while he nurses, at least on the left side. (I'm not a great typist so I use my right hand more than my left... My right is responsible for 3/4 of the keyboard, My left has the remaining 1/4.)

But at least I use more than two fingers....

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Characters are NOT Children to me (Though my children are characters...)

Every now and then I'll come across an author interview where the author swears that his fictional characters are just like children to him.

And I wonder... does this guy actually HAVE kids?

Because I can write my characters however I want. I control their thoughts, feelings and actions. I can change their names at will. If they annoy me, I can delete them, or at least leave them to languish in my "abandoned projects" file... perhaps forever. I don't love them... They're my creations, put in their story to amuse me, to do my bidding, and perhaps to earn me money some day.

My children defy any attempts to change who they are. (Not that I try--it would be useless since they apparently think they get to be unique human beings complete with their own souls.) I can change specific behaviors, but only with a lot of work. I love my children. Most of the time I enjoy being around them... but even when I don't enjoy them, I still have to pay attention to them and take care of them. (Heck, That's really what love IS--caring for the other person when it isn't fun, easy, or convenient.) They amuse me sometimes, obey me sometimes, and occasionally earn money.. ("Look Mom! A Quarter! Over there in traffic!!! Go get it Mom!!!!")--but that's not their reason for being.....

So... do authors who say their characters are like children not have kids? Or do they treat their characters better than I treat mine? Or are they just REALLY scary, controlling abusive parents with absolute say over who their children become?

Personally, I'm glad my characters aren't like children to me-- If they were, it would be a lot harder to hit "Save" so that I could go pay attention to my ACTUAL children...

A Disturbing Ramification of the WGA strike

This morning I started reading the evolutionary psychology book

I'm not to far into it, but I already came across something amusing... and disturbing (paragraph breaks are mine for easier reading):

"A recent study shows that individuals who watch certain types of TV programs
are more satisfied with their friendships, as if they had more friends or
socialized with them more frequently. According to the Savanna Principle, this
is probably because the human brain, adapted to the ancestral environment, has
difficulty distinguishing between our real friends in the flesh and the
characters we repeatedly see on TV.

In the ancestral environment, any
realistic images of other humans were other humans, and if you saw them
repeatedly and they did not try to kill or harm you in any way, then more than
likely they were your friends.

Our Stone Age brain therefore assumes
that the characters we repeatedly encounter on TV, very few of whom try to kill
or harm us, are our real friends, and our satisfaction with friendships thereby
increases by seeing them more frequently."

So if the WGA continues to strike and the the public doesn't get to see their "friends" anymore, will we see a massive wave of depression? Will an increase in divorce result as people blame their spouses for the diminished quality of their friendships?

Or will reruns reintroduce people to "long-lost friends" and keep their spirits up.

I'm going to have to protect myself-- time to stock up on Babylon 5 and Joan of Arcadia so we don't get lonely....

Also -- does anyone else find it mildly disturbing that the author believes that "very few" TV characters are trying to kill or harm us?????? I guess it's a good thing that Dr. Octopus can't get out of the magic glass box, huh?

Stephen Colbert does Liturgical Dance

Ok. So the following has nothing to do with Writing, homeschooling, or kids.

But it's funny... Especially since the man who wrote the featured song was the pastor of my college's Catholic Student Center.

We used to sing "The King of Glory" every year in a long Palm Sunday procession around the quads. By the time we got back to the church, everyone would be singing in a different key and a different tempo from everyone else. Usually the front and rear of the procession were about 2 verses off from each other.

Poor Father Jabusch would always have a pained, shocked look... something in the vein of "What's become of my beautiful, easy-to-sing yet catchy hymn?????"

I can only imagine how this link would affect him:

Dancing Colbert

*note- Thanks to First Things for the link.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Odd Phrases and a Liberal Arts Background

So... am I the only one who sees the phrase "Culture of Consumption" and immediately thinks that the article must have something to do with TB in literature?


I'll blame the baby. Obviously I've become completely divorced from normal-people land.

For the record: I am against conspicuous consumption. If you're coughing up blood, go to a sanitarium, for goodness sakes! Or at least pick up some antibiotic!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Writing on a Schedule

It's something I only dream of these days.

Before Baby #3, I could count on quiet time during Caillou --so I had a VERY PRODUCTIVE 1/2 hour every day. Now it varies. And sometimes my brain is just too fried to even try.

So I've been spending wayyy too much time earning "kinzcash" for the kids.

So now, a new resolution:

No Webkinz until I do at least 1/2 an hour of actual writing-related work - defined as writing, editing, submitting or serious market research.

Reading will NOT count as work because the blogger is so good I'd read her even if I wasn't a writer.

And reading the news, political blogs, etc. (Because they might give me an idea) will not count.

And decorating rooms on Webkinz (to understand the younger generation) will CERTAINLY not count, especially since all my children's "friends" are the kids of my friends, and all of our kids are too young to do too much on webkinz (other than boss us around) and so really the game is just a way to hang out with MY friends on line.

Oh, but in case your wondering, the games on Webkinz are fun--many of them are cute versions of the games I used to play in college while I procrastinated........

But they haven't added a Tetris look-a-like yet......

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In Solidarity with the WGA....

I will not be writing this week....

Well, not really, because of the WGA. Actually, because in-laws are visiting, Baby #3 is growth-spurting, my brain is mostly fried and I have writer's block.

But I do feel for the striking writers. Especially the TV writers who get screwed over on the whole DVD thing--DVD sales should really count like syndication.

My husband and I watch most of our shows on DVD. (We just finished up Babylon 5 earlier this summer. Now we're catching up on back-seasons of Monk.) We're hardly unique in this... most of our friends watch their TV shows on DVD too-- when you have small kids it's really much easier to be able to watch at random times and have access to a pause button. And REALLY GOOD closed captions. And rewind and skip scene and ... you get the idea.

I was also wondering why BOOK writers don't have a similiar union... I came to the conclusion that it's because ours is a VERY low profit business... everyone's working for love, and you can't strike for more $$ if there is no more $$ to give.......

Anyway, in other news, things are looking up around here. The little guy is eating well, I'm slowly starting to submit again (even if creatively speaking I'm dry, I can always revise existing ideas....), and my energy is slowly returning.....

I've also been thinking about how to make this blog less personal and more USEFUL. So hopefully I'll get busy and start actually linking to the things I find interesting and helpful....

But first, I'll finish cooking dinner for the two wild women.... =)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A muted Hooray!

We went to the Dr. yesterday. Baby's Bilirubin is down to ten (declining faster off the blanket than it was on...) and he gained 5 oz.

He's still not up to birthweight, but at least he's proven that he's willing to eat... so we get another week's grace period before the Dr. starts pushing formula.... (Our Dr. has been really good about this.... he's doing everything he can to let us keep breastfeeding... and I'm planning on hauling in the lactation consultants as well.... but I think this child is finally figuring out how to care about food (he actually woke me up to eat every 1.5 hours last night!!!!! I'm exhausted, but relieved...)

In other news, the girls are down with some flu/fever/vomit/nasal thing... so I'm still too busy/worn down to write.... but not as stressed as I was.... after all, improving baby with fall-virus-stricken sisters is MUCH better than NICU baby. =)

Besides, this means we're getting our annual bout of sick girls out of the way early... and I can tell they're improving. Today they actually care about what video's on while they lay on the couch... enough to squabble over it!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Cascade Effect

Baby's first week troubles and second week bili-blanket translated into poor nursing...

So this week we've been doing nothing but nursing skin-to-skin in a last ditch effort to avoid a failure-to-thrive diagnosis.

(Our Dr. is very pro-breastfeeding-- hence his "prescription" of skin-to-skin and more time to teach the baby how to eat...)

I think we'll have a good weight gain on Monday --- baby's cheeks have filled out and his arms and legs are getting fatter and the whole nursing thing has finally clicked with him....

But in the meantime, I'm still on my "maternity leave" from serious writing/ blogging....

Because if I didn't think kids were more important than career, I would have gone for a PhD.....

btw--if anyone is curious about his name, contact me by other means.... I'm kind of leery of posting that on blogger...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Rough 2 weeks for babyb #3

So the little guy was 6 lb 11 oz, but over a month early! (What can I say-- we have big babies around here...)

I had an easy labor and delivery (too easy-- after he broke his water bag they needed to put me on pitocin to get things moving...)

#3, not so much.

He was having breathing trouble, and got whisked away to the NICU. He ended up under an oxygen tent and run through with IVs. No one could hold him for 24 hours.

Then, after 3 days, we got to go home... only to return a day and a half later with sky-high bilirubin levels and another three days in the hospital...

We're calling him our 15,000 dollar baby (over and above normal childbirth expenses!)

Having a child in the hospital was the worst experience of my life. I've learned that I'd much rather be in pain myself than see my child suffer.

He's been home for a week now, but on a "bili blanket" to help with his jaundice... so we're pretty much tied to a chair...

Anyway, here's the most pathetic baby's first picture in the world-- I still want to cry every time I see it

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Baby #3

Baby #3 was born Sunday, just after noon. By duedate, he should have been 38 weeks or so, but he was actually more lik 35.... So he had a bit of breathing trouble at the start and had to be on oxygen.

It was a good 24 hours before I got to hold him or nurse him, and another 24 before I could have him in my room. I don't think I've ever been more miserable than the night one of the nurses told me that I couldn't even touch him or talk to him because he got too excited and couldn't breathe.....

But he's home now and fine except for some jaundice... so we've got a homehealth bilirubin blanket for him.......

Still, he nurses almost constantly (as he should... he's 2 1/2 pounds lighter than his sisters were! luckily, that still puts him at 6... ) so blogging is on is everything else.....

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Harsh Penance...

Sorry about the long blog-silence. Last Monday I went to confession and got one of the toughest penances of my life: A week's fast from the Internet! Not eating would have been easier. =) Which I guess was the point...

So, now that I've returned technology to a proportional (as opposed to way out of proportion, as it was before) place in my life, I'm back to blogging...

But I'll have to spend less time surfing, I think...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Saturday Morning Musing

Ok.. I just finished my "Google News" reading for the day...

And apparently that British couple are now suspects in their daughter's death. Portuguese police are saying that they accidentally killed their four year old and then disposed of the body.

Here's my question. How could anyone accidentally kill a FOUR-YEAR-OLD?????

My daughters almost 4. She has a habit of trying to do "tricks". (Handstands on wagons, flipping off chairs, jumping from places that I don't consider safe, etc...) Thankfully, all of these attempts at acrobatics usually end with very little harm except to my heart and blood pressure.

Four-year-olds are INCREDIBLY sturdy. I think God made them that way on purpose, so that all their "tricks" and "experiments" can't keep them from making it to five......

So are the Portuguese police just crazy, or are they trying to be polite?

I admit, I've never understood a lot about this case from the beginning. For instance, the British thing about leaving three young kids alone in a hotel room. I can't even IMAGINE leaving my kids alone in a hotel room while I ran to the ice machine two doors down, much less for a leisurely poolside dinner....

And the fact that the couple are reportedly "very devout Catholics" yet all 3 of their kids were conceived by IVF (not allowed by the Church.) I assumed that was just another case of the media reporting EVERY Catholic as "very devout." After all, they're probably at least as devout as Guliani... (In my world, very devout means daily Mass, weekly confession and Eucharistic Adoration, among other things.... I would not call myself "devout" -- I'd like to be some day, but I'm so not there yet....)

Anyway, I'm not sure you can accidentally kill a four-year-old... But maybe the kids I know (all of whom seem to think "Death-defying feat" means "That's worth trying!" are unusual..... somehow, though, I doubt it.....

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

New Babies and sibling rivalry

My almost-two-year-old and I were looking through a cute little book about new babies... it started out fine.

Then the middle third turned into "you'll be cranky and left out and it's ok to be mad..."

So I started editing. Heavily. As in "Hmmm... the girl in this picture has LOTS of markers and paper.... so why is she sad?"

ATYO's answer: "She doesn't have baby!"

I pointed to a picture of a pouty, tantrumy toddler sitting alone while his parents fussed over a new baby. "Well, why is he sad?"

ATYO: "Mommy and Daddy not sharing baby!!!" (Not sharing is a VERY big issue with our toddler these days.... except when she's the one not sharing...)

So clearly, my "Baby's are great, you get to help love the baby" program of indoctrination is paying off.....

As long as I don't get accused of not sharing.....

Friday, August 31, 2007

I know they're excited, but....

The baby's not due to be born for a month. But the girls are so excited they've given up sleeping. And napping. Instead, they stay up until midnight chattering about what they're going to do when the baby is born...... and then wake up at 6 am to poke my belly and tell their new sibling good morning.

My husband and I are just about to drop from exhaustion. Why aren't they??

On the other hand, I'm not worried about sibling rivalry. Except in the "It's MY turn to kiss the baby!" sense.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On Kindergarten

This was posted on the National Review Weblog.... I've always liked Father Rutler. He has a monthly feature in Crisis Magazine entitled "Cloud of Witnesses" which is always a profile of someone he knew who died......

My Wife Takes a Rather Different View [Peter Robinson]
In an eariler post I noted that, after two days in kindergarten last week, our five-year old announced that she had no intention of returning. (The mood passed.) Noticing this, Fr. George Rutler, our unofficial chaplain here on the Corner, offers his own views on the proper education of the very young.

I'd encourage your youngest one to abandon kindergarten altogether. Almost everything I learned was learned outside the classroom, and school itself interrupted my education. Moreover, school locks you in with your peers. That is a mistake. One's social circle should never include one's equals.

From my earliest years I found children uninteresting and always preferred the company of adults. This was an advantage, because I got to know lots of folks who are dead now whom I never would have known if I had waited until I was an adult. - So I have a collective memory - and oral tradition - that goes back to the eighteenth century, having spoken with people who knew people who knew people who knew people who lived then. -

The only real university is the universe and a city its microcosm. That is why an expression like "New York University" is foolish. New York City is the university….Instead of school, children should spend some hours each day in hotel lobbies talking to the guests.

They should spend time in restaurant kitchens and shops and garages of all kinds, learning from people who actually make the world work….One day spent roaming through a real classical church building would be the equivalent of one academic term in any of our schools, and a little time spent inconspicuously in a police station would be more informative than all the hours wasted on bogus social sciences.

Formal lessons would only be required for accuracy in spelling and proficiency in public speaking, for which the public speakers in our culture are not models, and in exchange for performing some menial services a child could learn the violin, harp, and piano from musicians in one of the better cocktail lounges, or from performers in the public subways….

So I urge you to keep your child out of kindergarten, because kindergarten will only lead to first grade and then the grim sequence of grade after grade begins and takes its inexorable toll on the mind born fertile but gradually numbed by the pedants who impose on the captive child the flotsam of their own infecundity.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Pink Was Giving Me Headaches!

The Pink was starting to be a bit too much for me. But Blogger makes it really easy to change your template. I think I like this one better, for now.... But the whole "redecorate with one click" feature makes change awfully tempting.

I really need to study more HTML so I that when I finally sell a book I can have a super-duper custom website and blog....

Unsolicited Submissions and Despair

There have been a lot of posts on SCBWI recently lamenting the fact that so many publishers are no longer responding to unsolicited submissions. A lot of authors seem very hurt and indignant. "How dare they treat potential customers this way?" seems to be the refrain of the hour...

But this is looking at the situation exactly backwards.

We're not the potential customers. They are. After all, we want THEM to buy OUR product. Unsolicited Authors are in the position of a salesman cold-calling. Or, actually in the position of someone sending unasked for catalogues and junk mail.

Do YOU personally respond to everyone who sends you a piece of junk mail? Do you call all those credit card companies up and tell them exactly why you're rejecting their offer?

I didn't think so. At least the publishers do us the courtesy of opening our submissions and reading the first page or so. The junk mail I get goes straight to the trashcan, unless I let the kids play with it...

So then you may wonder, why keep sending out unsolicited manuscripts?

Well, because, just like a few people may respond to that junk mail that you toss blithely in the trash can, there's a chance that some publisher somewhere may look at what you have to offer and think "Hey.. I'd like to see more of this..."

But we really can't blame them for not wanting to take the time to respond to all the stuff that they don't want. Even if we're SURE they should really, really want our book.

After all, what kind of salesman would we be if we didn't believe in the product?

Hmmm... I don't FEEL poor...

There's been a lot of talk about the two Americas, health care for the poor, etc.

So today I looked up the federal poverty line for a family of 5 (since babies in utero count..)

Our taxable income puts us right on the line... (Our health insurance is 10,000 a year, but it comes out before taxes, so from a federal perspective that money doesn't really exist....)

So we're the poor? We have a house (a small one, but we're saving up to afford a bigger one), a minivan, a computer and Internet!

We never have to cut corners to pay the bills. We get the EIC, but we save it for emergencies (new hot water heater, etc.)

If it wasn't for our massive student loan debt (comes out after taxes) of close to $500 a month, we'd be living high on the hog! (definition: not shopping at Aldis except when we wanted to-- of course, technically we could meet the same goal by buying a big freezer and stocking up when Meijers had sales.... but we don't have room for a freezer.)

We have plenty to eat, our house is fairly warm in the winter (even the wealthy people in town have this problem-- 100 year old houses are poorly insulated...) I get to stay home with the kids, and my husband has a 40-hour work week with a month of vacation every year!

And we're poor... (just barely, but still...)

We have too many clothes and WAYYYYY too many toys. (And too many books, but we don't talk about that...)

But we also pay next to nothing in taxes. So a number of our "non-poor" friends actually have a HARDER time making ends meet than we do. Because their tax burden is so high, they actually have LESS DISPOSABLE INCOME than we do! And they work more hours. And have less vacation....

Which is why I tend to look askance at all the"two Americas" talk. Why would I vote for someone who wants to increase taxes and make it harder for my friends and family to get by just to give me a life that's even easier than the one I have now?

(I mean, sure, we only get to eat out 3-4 times a year - but eating at home is healthier anyway, and restaurants are often a bit of a let down. And we never go to the movies... but that's mostly a function of a house full of small children. "the rich" young families I know don't get out much either.....
And we don't have cable. But we wouldn't anyway--we prefer DVDs.. the TV only gets used for Sesame Street and Caillou and severe thunderstorms... And we live walking distance from my husband's job and use cloth diapers and make our own bread and breastfeed-- But again, even if we were RICH we'd do all those things..... It's not just the money...)

And, we don't plan to stay "poor" forever.... so why would I vote for someone who wants to raise taxes on my future self?

Americans defined as poor don't vote against their own self-interest -- it's just that many politicians have never bothered to meet us and find out what our self-interest actually IS.

Anyway, enough political ranting for the day.... But really, if we REALLY want to help the poor, shouldn't we be helping the folks who have malaria and dysentery and regularly have to watch formerly healthy babies waste away and die before their eyes? But wait... those people aren't American so we don't care about them.....

(And yes, I know the US has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Do you know why? Because babies who would be stillborn in most places actually get born here. And some of them are too sick to live very long... But our HEALTHY infant mortality rates are great......)

Anyway, I'll stop now. But I thought this article was pretty interesting: Poor Politics

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First day of school!

Today was our first official day of home-school pre-school.

Why? Because the school supplies arrived and we were all thrilled and wanted to use them as soon as possible.

My 3 1/2 year old LOVES the fat pencils and special paper to help her learn to write. We also splurged and got a bunch of GIANT magnetic letters, both upper and lower case!

So the three of us (almost-two-year-old could NOT be left out, of course!) spent 45 minutes working on "writing." (My workbook from Kolbe hasn't come yet, so I'm currently in scattershot land)

We practiced O's, lines, and writing names. We traced letters with our fingers, identified all the magnetic letters as they came out of their bags, (3 1/2 -year old knows them all! YAY! I have absolutely NO idea how she learned them, but she's become a pro at picking out letters and numbers on our walks around town), and even practiced sounding out some of our favorites.

I'd thought that my daughter's "reading and writing" attention span would be about 10 minutes at a time (I'm a big fan of "teachable moments" at this age). I was shocked at the whole 45 minute thing... but then, sometimes it's fun just to have Mommy's mostly undivided attention!

Anyway, it was fun all around, and I plan on keeping it as long as the kids are interested... But I don't want to get too formal, since "formal schooling" and three-year-olds really don't mix in my world....


You know, when I sent the story I'm working on out to the first couple of publishers, I thought it was pretty good. Then I hit 10 rejections, and decided to haul it in for a major re-critique (with different critiquers) and re-write.

It's becoming MUCH better. I sort of wish I hadn't sent it out when I had...

But when I write something I like, I really need the distance and objectivity that comes with having 10 objective parties say "Sorry, we're not at all interested. Actually, we're not even really sorry--this isn't ready for the big-time yet"

Because now I can do the hard, heartless labor of cutting away the dead-rot and making the story all it should be.....

I've noticed that some writers can get the necessary distance without submitting first. I hope I reach that level of self-discipline some day. I also hope that every critique I get gives me new tough questions to ask myself when looking at a manuscript and trying to decide if it's ready.

And now, back to work. procrastinating time is over. And if I finish my chores (house and writing) I can spend a little more time with Bekkah Cooper and the Dogs.

(My number finally came up on the hold-list at the library! =) )

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dealing with Rejection

So, after about 15 minutes of wailing and gnashing my teeth I:

1. Pulled up an even leaner, meaner and all around better version of my MSS that I've been working on for the last month (In case this happened).

2. Found 8 publishers that it would work for, and to whom I currently have no MSS submitted

3. Subbed it to 5 of them (The other 3 will have to wait a few days, the kids intervened and I'm dangerously low on printer paper.)

4. Immediately felt much better. What can I say? Hope springs eternal, and I'll probably have a better shot with one of the bigger publishers. After all, the good small presses are just as picky as the biggies, but publish about 1/10 as many books.....

So, that's the Deirdre Mundy lesson on dealing with rejection as a writer -- get over it, submit more, and keep writing.... Not particularly original advice, but the only advice that works!

Now, to battle the evil dish monster... (The oven got ignored because the kids wanted to play ball...inside.... while jumping on the beds.... and I aided and abetted them....we also never made it to the lake, because the game wore us all out and we ended up collapsing...... But they're getting MUCH better at catching and throwing, so I'm calling it "Motor Skills Training.")

Birthday Bashed

Well, this is shaping up to be a pretty bad 30th birthday.

My husband had to work, so it was going to be pretty dreary anyway.

Then the kids and I had trouble getting out of the house this morning, so we missed my daughter's ballet class. At least I realized we weren't going to make it when we were halfway there, so we only wasted 16 miles worth of gas instead of 40.......

So I got home, checked my email and found that the book I was REALLY REALLY hoping would get published was rejected just shy of the final cut. At least it's a really good book-- and the publisher was small, so it might have an easier time finding a home somewhere that publishes more than 8 picture books a year......

Now I have to get my kids changed and take them to the beach-- it's 63 degrees, breezy and cloudy--not prime beach weather, but to get them to stop crying about the missed ballet I promised I'd take them so they could splash in the lake and build sandcastles and play on the playground.

Then, once they're sufficiently tired, we'll come back home, I'll pop in a video, and I'll tackle our EXCRUCIATINGLY nasty kitchen while they veg.

And if ONE MORE PERSON asks me what I'm doing for my birthday, I'll scream.
(answer: cleaning the oven.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wrestling with Imaginary Puppies

I have a manuscript I REALLY like. But, after 13 form rejections, I decided that it's time for a major rewrite. So I posted it in the SCBWI manuscript exchange forum.

I got a lot of really good feedback really quickly. So now I'm spending the week wrestling with the manuscript. (Like the epic Zebra battles, but without any external deadlines.)

My challenge? To increase the level of story tension and the amount of action without substantially increasing the word count.

(My kids like stories that are about 750 words tops. While I'm sure they're weird in most respects, I think they're pretty typical in this one. And since I'm aiming for a toddler/preschool story that elicits screams of "Again! Again!", I think I ought to follow their advice on this one. =) )

I've just finished the rewrite... now comes the re-edit with MAJOR trimming.......

My least favorite part. The hardest part. The part that leaves me bleary-eyed and headachey. But it's also the part that turns a good story into a great one and has produced some of my best work (in my opinion, and in the opinions of editors.....) So off to editing I go...

As soon as my three-year-old and I eat a few blueberry pancakes.....

Thursday, August 9, 2007

And they claim to be able to find TERRORISTS?

The smuggled monkey

So a man can smuggle a monkey (albeit a small, well-behaved one) onto a flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York by hiding it in his hat?????????

My whole family has to remove our shoes whenever we travel, and this guy can hide a Monkey???????

Somehow this does NOT help my already dubious faith in Airport Security....

Note to the government: A well-trained attack monkey could be a LOT more dangerous than my bottle of Suave Shampoo.......

Maternity Leave from Submitting

As my pregnancy progresses, something has to give....

so while I'm keeping up with my writing and revising, I'm giving submitting a break for now.

Why? I have about 30 things out there right now. I can expect replies through January. So I'll still be getting feedback, even if I don't actively submit anything until after Baby #3 appears.

Also, submissions are the most time-consuming writing-related chore I have. Researching guidelines, writing covers and queries, even addressing envelopes all take time and energy that need to be spent elsewhere right now...... (Like writing thank you notes-- I'm so far behind! And trying to finish daughter #2's scrapbook before child # 3 arrives.... Oh... and her baby book too... that has about 3 entries right now! Gosh.... I'm going to be in trouble if I don't get to work..... Maybe I should start blogging milestones... that way I can go back and look for them later to fill out baby books! =) )

And finally, and most prosaically, I'm low on stamps, and don't feel like making a post office run right now. =)

If I write something really suited to a particular magazine I'll send it off, but as far as querying and subbing my stash of picture books? Not right now.....

(And maybe when I start up again, I'll try a few agents.... I would save SO much time and be able to write SO much more if someone else was in charge of the "finding a publisher" thing!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Trophy Kids

There's been a lot of talk on the Internet over the last few days about "Trophy Kids" . I think most of the commentary is pretty unfair. (though that might just be because, as the soon-to-be mother of three, I fall into the category of "Competitive Birther." Yeah, right. )

I think the whole issue might really be one of social norms....

If you know a lot of people who think 3, 4, or even 5 is an acceptable number of children, you're probably more likely to seriously consider having a larger family.

If, on the other hand, everyone you know stops at one, you'll probably see one as the norm.....

Also, there's the wide availability of in vitro fertilization, with its tendency to multiple births....

Personally, considering the crowd I hang out with (Catholic Home-schoolers, mostly), my three is a bit pathetic.....

I keep going to events, meeting people who see my two daughters (almost 4 and almost 2) and my impending arrival (only 2 months to go), and watching as my new acquaintance scans the room, clearly wondering where I'm hiding the rest of my brood.......

sigh.... if three puts you in the "competitive birther" category, I'm doomed to be pretty close to last place....... =)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Alleluia! The Cruel Strife is Over!

Last night was the vacation bible school "Mass in the Grass" and picnic. My daughter was sorry to see the week end, but I'm relieved...

35 pre-schoolers for 4 nights in a row is a bit much... and the bible school made my children to hyper to sleep!

Now we can return to our regularly scheduled life. =) And after I finish grading those darned Latin tests, I can settle down to read HP7 (I have it for a week, via the "Hot Picks" shelf at our library.)

And, meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear back from a couple of really promising publishers. To stay sane and on task, I'm only checking my email twice a day! =) And I am NOT staring at the phone the way a cat stares at the electric can opener.......

Monday, July 30, 2007

Busy Week

This week, in addition to the usual round of chores, I have:

-1 major rewrite to finish
-1 major rewrite to start
-A last little bit of Latin Grading
-5 evenings at Vacation Bible school with my daughters (St. Patrick and the Trinity... should be fun! How much do you want to be that at least ONE of the crafts involves cutting and pasting shamrocks?)
- Nasty, hot, 90 degree and up temperatures (with no AC) which means nausea, lethargy, and ankles the size of tree trunks.......

And, on top of all of that, I'm waiting with baited breath to hear back from a few publishers that are more good bets than long shots..... So I have to keep fighting the uncontrollable urge to sit, cat-like, staring at the phone......

But I may find the time to blog... with my swollen feet up....

Friday, July 27, 2007

NOW they tell me......

From a review of Wendy Shalit's new book on modesty, Girls Gone Mild:

"Scarleteen offers a “sex readiness checklist” for young girls to help them gauge whether they should plunge into the fun. Among the items: “I see a doctor regularly,” and “I have a birth control budget of $50 per month.” The emotional readiness a girl should demonstrate is “I can separate love from sex.” Shalit notes, “Those who can separate love from sex are mature, like jaded adults. They are ready to embark on a lifetime of meaningless encounters.”

Baby # 3 is coming, and the only one of these things that applies to me is the one about regular check-ups with a doctor......
(Note-- neither the reviewer, the author of the book, or the blogger is endorsing this particular checklist -- obviously, since baby #3 is on the way! =) )

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fun with writing prompts...

So I just finished a first draft of "High Adventure" -- a 500 word picture book written to reflect my daughter's sensibilities.....

I never had so many ideas until I was home with the kids full time....

But now that I've had my 1/2 hour of writing fun for the day, I'm off to the Latin mines.... and the dishes mines, and the laundry mines.....

Though I'm envisioning a whole series of books for my daughter now.... Not necessarily to submit (I have such a backlog anyway) but at leas to have handy when she wants a story late at night when my brain is too fried to think.

Anyway, I'm off to the chores... Though if I make any progress, today will be a library day too......

What do Pre-schoolers REALLY like?

Editorial Anonymous, one of my favorite blogs, said:

"Children like Fancy Nancy too, but I think a significant part of its extreme popularity, like Olivia's, is attributable to the character coinciding with many adults' perception of little girls."

I think the point about Olivia being more for the adults than the kids is really well made--

I know my almost-4-year-old finds Olivia boring. Why should she listen to a story about someone doing things that she can do herself? (try on clothes, pretend to be a ballerina...)

Especially since, for a child, these are not "amusing anecdotes." They're what she does all day. They're deadly serious... fun, but serious...

I've noticed a BIG difference between 2 and 4.... at 2 she liked humdrum everyday stories that reinforced her ideas about how the world worked.

At almost 4, she wants high adventure, or at least strange situations.

We've had to move on to chapter books. She LOVED Little House in the Big Woods. A world with no TV? Only 2 books? and no appliances? And bears???? How exciting!

We're currently working through "Wizard of Oz" --Evil witches, Talking scarecrows, interesting illustrations...... How can we go wrong?

I'd like to see more "High Adventure" picture books for her age... not more than 1100 words or so, lots of good guys, bad guys, mild peril, etc......

Maybe I'll just have to write one....

But then the question becomes: Is she normal? Or is it WEIRD for a kid to want that?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Staying Productive

I sent out a few more submissions today -- I'm up to 27 again, but I'd really like to stay around 30.....

Unfortunately, I also have Latin Exams to grade, and that takes precedence...

I've really become a big fan of having as much out there as possible... especially now that I have a backlist...

I read once that Jane Yolen has 120 pieces out at any one time - if it's important for someone famous with a great writing career to keep submitting, it's got to be even more important for an unknown trying to break into publishing!

I really do have to focus more on my magazine work, though. It actually gets published from time to time, and I've yet to have that sort of luck with the book market...

But I figure lightening is more likely to strike when I've got more lightening rods out there!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ok.. Now I want to read it...

I wasn't sure if I'd read "Deathly Hallows" any time soon.... While I enjoyed the early books, the most recent ones have been a bit of a drag -- too long, too much school stuff, too much making out in stairwells, etc... I read them so that I could talk to other people, but I didn't really ENJOY them.....

(Up till now, "Prisoner" has been my far and away favorite...)

Then I started reading the reviews.... "Best since Goblet of Fire".... "Very Allegorical"... "Tough choices, no school stuff".....

I even read a few of the spoilers which left me thinking "I'd REALLY like to see how that plays out..."

So now I want to read it... I guess I'll have to have my husband obsessively check the express checkout shelf at the library and snag one for me!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is Probably pretty accurate....

You're The Mists of Avalon!

by Marion Zimmer Bradley

You're obsessed with Camelot in all its forms, from Arthurian legend
to the Kennedy administration. Your favorite movie from childhood was "The Sword in
the Stone". But more than tales of wizardry and Cuban missiles, you've focused on
women. You know that they truly hold all the power. You always wished you could meet
Jackie Kennedy.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Geppetto and Son

We took the kids up to the Starlight Theatre in Rockford, IL to see "Geppetto and Son."

I enjoyed it-- of course, it WAS the first live show I've seen since December 2003...

My Three-year-old also loved it... her one problem was figuring out where to look... the stage is so much bigger and busier than a TV screen!

The toddler was NOT up to theatre.. she loved the big, all-cast musical numbers, but when people were talking (instead of singing and dancing) she lost interest....

But I think my older daughter will definitely be able to handle the Nutcracker this Christmas.....

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Caillou the Martyr

Today PBS showed the Caillou Valentine's day episode-- kind of out of season, don't you think?

Anyway, my daughter was asking about Valentine's Day, so I gave her a quick account of the life and death of Saint Valentine.

She promptly asked "Is Caillou going to get killed too?"
"No dear, he's just going to make paper hearts."
She actually looked DISAPPOINTED about this....

So then I told her about Cyril and Methodius (Also Feb. 14) for good measure. She was especially fascinated with how they made an alphabet for people who didn't have one.

And before anyone asks, we are NOT going to teach her about the Lupercalia at this point... the LAST thing I need is for her to be bloodthirsty AND pagan......

The Voices

For weeks, my pre-school daughter has been walking around the house saying
"Listen to the voices! We have to listen to the voices!"

My husband and I were beginning to get a little creeped out. After all, we haven't let her watch any horror movies, and this doesn't seem like the sort of thing one would pick up from PBS kids.

Then, finally, last night, we solved the mystery. My husband has a small digital voice recorder. Occasionally he'll let the kids talk to it, and then play it back for them.

All this time that we thought we had a budding axe murder on our hands, she'd just been wanting to play with Daddy's recorder.

So that's one potential Stephen King-like scenario avoided. =)

Monday, July 16, 2007

5 reasons that "No SASE" is no problem

Many publishers are adopting a policy of "don't include a SASE, if we want your manuscript, we'll call.."

And many authors are upset, because they feel like they're submitting to a black hole and who knows if anyone ever even READ their manuscript?

Since I am nothing if not a cock-eyed optimist, I'd like to make a couple of points about why this situation isn't really all gloom and doom.

1. You NEVER had a guarantee that someone read your manuscript. A rejection slip gives no information on this point. For all you know, an intern opened your submission, glanced at the cover letter, said "hmm... we don't need any more 135-word picture books about depressed amphibians" and stuffed your SASE......

At least under the new system, any reply from the publisher would actually MEAN something.

2. Less work for the publisher saves money-- money that can be used to produce more books, thereby INCREASING your odds of acceptance.

3. Good for the environment/landfills/etc. -- Hopefully, most people aren't psychotic enough to save EVERY LAST rejection slip. After all, if they're not personalized, they're all the same (well, different paper colors and weights, and different letterheads -- but not useful) So they go right into the trash/recycle pile, like junk mail. Why contribute to the waste?

*note -- my children are very disappointed by the trend-- they liked using rejection slips as art supplies.... but we have other, much more generous, sources of doodling paper! *

4. Saves the Author money -- the cost of envelopes and stamps can really add up. Do you really WANT to spend .43 just to hear "Your manuscript is not suited to our list. Good luck placing it elsewhere"? You can just recite the mantra to yourself after the deadline day passes.... and save the .43 for another submission!

5. Author Record Keeping is easier -- Now you don't have to wonder as a reply date passes. You don't have to think "Should I send a status Query? Or give them a few more weeks?" Instead, you can just fill in "rejected" in your log and get back to work on something else.

Maybe I'm just unusually cold-hearted and hard-headed on this subject-- but how can something that saves everyone involved time and money be a bad thing?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A day well spent

This morning I woke the toddler up early and we all went to the "Super-Duper Playground!" to meet friends....

Two hours there, followed by lunch, put the kids into a coma. So I got a good block of writing time in this after noon.

I used it to work on my first draft of an entry into the 2008 Highlights fiction contest.

Yes, I know you can only submit in January. And yes, I know it's only July. But I really like this year's topic (Stories set in the future) and I wanted to start working on ideas now, so that I can have something beautiful and polished by the time the new year rolls around....

I've come up with a good first draft for the older readers.... now I'm trying to also think of something in the under-500-word easy-reader category. It's a bit harder....

Anyway, my plan is to do one draft a month until it's perfect, or it's January... whichever comes first...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A sale!!

Clubhouse Magazine just accepted my story "The Easter Prize" for publication.

Now I can breathe a sigh of relief-- the sale means that I'll turn a profit for the year. (a small one, but a profit nonetheless)

That makes 3 years running that my earnings from writing have exceeded my expenses (paper, postage, paper clips, SCBWI membership and a copy of Writer's Market... I'm so glad that this field has such low overhead!)

Now even the IRS will have to consider me a professional! =)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Work in Progress....

I'm still editing and resubmitting some old pieces....

And, just for fun, or practice, or something, I've started work on a mid-grade horror novel.... we'll have to see how it goes.

The pacing is the hardest part, I think... I'm trying for a tone of gradually building Wrong-ness that eventually culminates in something completely horrifying....

I'll have to check out some John Bellairs books when I get to the library today.... I haven't read them in YEARS but I remember how much I LOVED them at 10 and 11.... especially "The house with the clock in its walls."

And, unlike the R.L Stine books I read in later years, I read John Bellairs MULTIPLE TIMES.......

Anyway, even if it doesn't end up being a great horror book, it's a fun summer exercise.... I like to give myself writing assignments so that I have to stretch...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

My Children are trying to KILL me!

In the last 3 days, they have, between the two of them, slept a total of 38 hours. But not at the same time, of course.

They're tired and cranky, but not so tired that I can persuade them to actually go to sleep.

Meanwhile, I'm "functioning" on less than 4 hours of sleep per night. This is not good for a pregnant woman...

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those "Mommy will get you a drink as soon as she's done vomiting" weeks. Argh.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Help me! I've corrupted my child.......

Today my 3 1/2 year old spent an hour with a notebook, "writing a story." A Chapter story, no less.....

Apparently this has replaced "cooking", "dishes" and "baby care" as her preferred form of "playing grown-up."

Sigh.... I feel like a bad mother....

After she was done, she deigned to read me chapter one:

Once upon a time, in a beautiful town, there was a Bad King who wanted to kill EVERYONE so he went into the forest......

She said I had to wait until tomorrow for Chapter 2....

At least I know where she got the "Bad King" thing from.... it wasn't me, it was CHURCH. More specifically, King Herod and the Slaughter of the Innocents.... She LOVES that story..... I think I may be raising a pirate disguised as a delicate ballerina princess......

Thursday, July 5, 2007

When I'm not writing...

I've been spending my writing time for the last two weeks focused on submitting, editing, and critiquing for other people.

Now I've noticed an interesting trend...

The less I write, the weirder and more disturbing my dreams get...

I'd better block in a bit more writing time so I can get a night without nightmares! Or Monastic Chimpanzees, which is almost as bad.....

Fourth of July

We had a great day yesterday. We live in Indiana, and our town really knows how to do the Fourth of July.

We took the kids up to the parade. It's only a few blocks from our house. I'd hate to have to drive in, though -- it would be impossible to find parking!

We set up camp near the Knights of Columbus, mostly because it's a. close and b. has bathrooms (a must when you have a pregnant lady and a three year old!)

We brought the wagon and plenty of food and snacks, and we had a great view and even a comfortable place to sit!

The kids LOVED the parade. They hadn't realized that there were so many fire trucks in the whole world! They also loved the "army guys", the horses, the bands, the gymnasts, the color guards, and... well everything! We stayed 2 hours... the parade was still going, but Mommy and Daddy were ready to go home...

Then we had steak and friends for dinner, and went to the fair grounds to see the fireworks.

All in all, a perfect fourth of July...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Writing update...

Well, I've sent out 7 submissions this week. Now I'm out of stamps, so I need to make a trip to the post office.

And I have a short story to edit.

And I'm doing some critiquing.

But I haven't felt much like writing. Most of the week was too hot, and then I went to the library and got a huge stack of new MG and YA novels to read.

So I'm having a reading/housework week... until inspiration hits again or I catch up on my thank you notes.

What a day...

Yesterday I had to give the time-out chair a time-out. The kids were fighting over it and I was ready to lose my mind. There's no good way to punish them both at once, so the CHAIR got a 15 minute time out instead.

There were lots of tears and complaints, but it stopped the fighting, and by the time the chair was back "in", they'd moved onto something else...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In Other news

I made a list of comprehensive list of publishers who take simultaneous submissions, publish the sort of books I write, and have good reputations.

I discovered that there are about ten that don't currently have one of my manuscripts working its way up through the slush...

Since I have three or four PBs ready to go, I'm spending this week in a frenzy of submission....

Once I'm another month or so pregnant I won't really have the energy to write, edit and submit. But if I drop the submitting and cut back on the editing for a while, I'll still have the energy to write.....

Then I can have a whole pile of things to edit, re-edit and submit once the baby's a few months old and I get a free arm occasionally. (My kids tend to be round-the-clock nursers for the first couple months... so my husband and I know we should just assume that NOTHING will happen for the first 8-12 weeks.......)

Anyway, I've got four submissions down... 6 to go.... and then I'll have 35 pieces out there at once.... well above my bare minimum of 20, so I should be covered for a while....

(I read once that Jane Yolen frequently has 100???? different submissions out at a time? WOW! Though it does reinforce the idea that there's never a point in your writing career where you've "arrived" and don't have to work hard anymore.....)

Well, that was odd.....

My daughter was up a bit early this morning and watching Clifford. (7:30 Central time - 8:30 Eastern)

All of the sudden, one of those emergency broadcasts came on.... but it kept repeating... it wasn't a test......

It said that there would be an emergency for the ENTIRE UNITED STATES from 9:30 - 9:45 Eastern time???????

So I hopped online to see if anyone else mentioned this.....

Nothing. The breaking news was all Paris Hilton......

Since it seems unlikely that the govt. could pinpoint the time, but not the location of an attack.....

And since if a giant meteor was headed for us I think someone would have mentioned it by now.....

I'll assume it was just a bizarre typo on the part of the local PBS station....

Besides, if it WAS a real emergency, why would they only do it in text? During CLIFFORD-- a show for pre-schoolers??? That would be WORSE than useless....... =)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Fun!

I like to pick one fun thing to work on every summer. Even though I'm well out of school, it gives me the feeling of a break. (a false feeling, since when your kids are 3, 1 1/2 and T-3 months, there really are no true breaks...)

This summer I've decided to work through "Drawing for Dummies," followed by any other sketching/drawing books that I find suitably intriguing.

I really would like to be good enough to illustrate some day, and since classes are out of the question right now I might as well start small...

I also need to finish my toddler's baby book before the new baby arrives.... So I'm hoping to set aside an hour a week for scrap-booking...

And, of course, the regular cycle of writing, editing, submitting, and rewriting......

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Zoo Comparisons

The National Zoo, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. Was it always this run-down? Maybe I just didn’t notice as a child? 2/3 of the cages were “temporarily” empty --- the same that have been empty for the last 6 years. The Giraffe has been sent away. The prairie dogs are still missing. Most of the restroom stalls were out of order, and the ones that weren’t were filthy. Water fountains were few and far between, and there was no shade.

The kids were happy about the elephants, though. But even the three-year-old noticed that the zoo was falling into disrepair.

“Why is OUR zoo so much nicer?” she asked. Her Dad and I explained that this was a NATIONAL zoo. That means everyone is supposed to care about it… which means that no one really does. Our zoo is smaller, and the people who take care of it really LOVE it, and work hard for it. (also, our zoo doesn’t need to go through congress to get things… they just ask the community….)

I’ll have to take the kids down to the Indianapolis Zoo some day this summer. It’s a first class zoo AND it has a giraffe for them! Maybe it’s the difference between pay-zoos and free-zoos.

A week with no blogging

I’m sorry about the lack of blogging in the last week. We’ve were on vacation in Virginia, and I’m a little shy about posting notices like “empty house—come and take it all!” on the internet.

We had a nice time visiting the grandparents. The highlight of the trip was a visit to Mount Vernon. Even though I grew up in the area, I’d never been before.

The site is well-maintained with plenty of clean bathrooms and lots of water fountains. Best of all, they’ve made it INCREDIBLY kid friendly! The kids were a bit bored by the house – they preferred the giant doll’s house model, of course.

But they LOVED the “George Washington- Colonial Farmer” exhibit. It’s a small colonial farm, complete with heritage breeds of animals and a working threshing barn! (They got to watch the horses go around and around… a big treat!)

My three-year-old was especially enamored with a set-up that let the kids pound corn into corn meal. The giant wooden mortar and pestle made a satisfying “Thwock” sound with every blow. She could have done it for hours!

I’d like to go back some day when the kids are older… Mount Vernon really takes a whole day, and my kids have a three hour limit before crankiness sets in…

But it WAS educational. The three-year-old listened carefully to the guides and was impressed by George Washington’s tomb. (Behind a high iron fence to keep people from disturbing it.)

As we left, she put the bars and the guide’s talk together and informed us that “George Washington was the first Prisoner of the United States.”

The toddler loved the sheep and pigs, and began a little chant of “Pigs live in piggy house, oink, oink, oink!” until she fell asleep in the car.

If anyone else is traveling to Virginia with kids, Mount Vernon is a MUST SEE.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Highlights Fiction Contest

The for the Highlights Fiction Contest 2007 are now out. So I can stop my "If I win, I can buy a new couch!" daydreams.

Now I need to start working on my entry for next year's contest. The theme? "Stories Set in the Future."

This should be a lot of fun...... and I'll probably get a few other good stories out of it that aren't for the contest too!

I think my submission for 2007 was pretty strong... I've already got a list of other places to send it....

Monday, June 4, 2007


My toddler is obsessed with drawing and babies. She follows me around the house all day paper and a pencil. As soon as I sit down, she pounces.

"Draw Babies!" she shrieks.

I oblige by drawing a circle... the essence of a baby.

She then orders me to draw various body parts, backgrounds and accessories.

Then "Draw 'nother Baby!"

If I let it, this could go on for hours.

Recently, she's developed a new tactic. She realizes that Mommy in the Bathroom is a captive audience. And she can open doors. (Our bathroom lock has been disabled... too many small-child-locked-inside incidents.)

So now my five minutes of peace has become five minutes of drawing babies....

I never really knew what true multi-tasking was until I had children.....

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Bye Bye Zebra

Well, I finished my revisions. (I also re-caught a cold in the process... apparently I was pushing a bit to hard...)

The new story is MUCH better than the original, so even if the editor decides to pass on it, I'm grateful for the help....

After all, I got a consultation with an editor and concrete suggestions for improvement....

A lot of people pay for that, and I got the help for free! (It was an electronic submission, so there wasn't even the cost of postage!)

And, in case she does pass, I'm already working on a list of other publishers that might like it.......

Now, all I need to do is write a Latin Final Exam, and I'll be mostly caught up on life! (For the moment, at least)

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Siege of Leningrad Begins.....

Cutting the first 100-words is usually fairly easy. Now I'm in the midst of the head-splitting, tooth-grinding work of serious revision.

I've got 67 words to go before I'm under 1200 (the most I can possibly DREAM of submitting without cringing.)

I'm cutting in 10-word chunks. For once, housework seems like a reward-- at least it gives me a break from wrestling with Zebras!

On the positive side, I'm only making cuts that really strengthen the manuscript. So, even if the editor doesn't want it after the rewrite, I've got a much better piece of work to submit to something else.

And every time I have to really fight with a piece, I become a better writer.

Not to mention, the house gets cleaner as I procrastinate! =)

By the way...

Can you tell that I'm procrastinating on tough chores and even tougher edits? =)

My Top 10 "Read it Again" Bedtime stories!

1. Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Great pictures, almost no words.... I can read it to the toddler 5 times in a row and not cringe at the inevitable "Again."

2. Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton

I love the swinging rhythm, the sweet drawings, and the fact that even an 18-month old can mostly memorize it.

3. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Always a favorite, the kids have it memorized, and I do too! (great for car trips where I can't actually bear to look at the page, but the kids want a story.)

4. Babybug Magazine

They're short, the variety of art and writing is refreshing, and my toddler ADORES Clara Vulliamy's "Kim and Carrots." It's like her own, personal, almost-two-year-old soap opera.

5. The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle (Board Book Edition)

The raised illustrations are great for little fingers, and both kids love the succession of barnyard creatures.

6. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle

Another classic. Another rhythmic, easy to memorize story. And it teaches colors, too! How can you go wrong?

7. This Is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten and Delana Bettoli

We got this one as a gift around Christmas time. I'd originally meant to put it away and only bring it out once a year, but the kids LOVE it.

The pictures are gorgeous. The text is both soothing and memorable.
My three year old, when asked where Jesus was born, now replies:
"In a stable, dusty and brown in a quiet corner of Bethlehem Town!"

And the toddler LOVES all the animals... and the baby, of course! =)

8. Where's the Puppy? by Cheryl Christian and Laura Dwight

This is the ultimate, almost indestructible, toddler lift-the-flap book.
Others in the series include "Where's the Kitten?" and "Where's the Baby?"

The photos are very appealing, the text is minimal, and the "Flaps" are actually board/book pages folded over on themselves---there's no glue and no flimsy flaps to rip!

9. Pat the Bunny by by Dorothy Kunhardt

I hate that this book is destroyed anew by every child. (No wonder it's never been out of print!)

On the other hand, the kids ADORE it, and it's so short I can read it 10 times straight without needing a glass of water!

10. Dora the Explorer Mass Market paperbacks (or bound into a single volume...)

Ok... Honestly, I HATE these. But they're short and the kids love them. Also, if I refuse to read them Dora, they demand that I make up NEW Dora stories for them, which is worse. So Dora makes it onto the list, if only because she's the darling of every American girl under the age of 8!

Agonizing edits

I've finished the first draft of the rewrite. The problem? The editor asked me to more than double the number of events in the picture book. Which more than doubled the length.

So now my sweet little just-under-600-words story has...blossomed.... into a 1300 word behemoth.

The thought of a 1300-word picture book pains me.

My husband points out that it reads fine for a K-3 audience, and it's not too long for a book-loving 3 or 4 year old....

All I can think is "If I read this as a bedtime story, my throat would be sore half-way through the first "read it again."

I guess part of my problem is that in my little warped world of pre-schooler and toddler, if a book is too long to be read 3 times in a row, it's too long!

Thursday, May 31, 2007


I've finished the research for my rewrite and have finished about 1/4 of the writing. I really want to get this out as soon as possible, so I doubt I'll have anything interesting to say to anyone for a few days.

Unless you're especially interested in mole rats. (They turned out not to work with the plot, but WOW! they are so weird..... almost like aliens.....)

Friday, May 25, 2007


I just got a very specific rewrite request from an editor! So the few weeks are going to be an intense whirlwind of research, writing, editing and emergency critiques.

And I have to write the final exam for my Latin class this weekend... The local youth group is going on a huge trip to Alabama (won a contest) and most of my class is in the youth group, so we're compressing the class schedule...

And we'll be driving 12 hours each way for a wedding this weekend....

So I'm happy, excited and pleasantly stressed as deadlines loom.

But blogging will probably be even slower than usual....

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rules (finally)

I finally got around to reading Cynthia Lord's Rules yesterday. It was incredible. Jason was my favorite character -- he reminds me of a little girl I babysat when I was in college.

I'm probably the last children's writer in America to read it... but my book buying budget is shot, so I needed to wait until it was actually checked IN at the library.... and it's been very popular!

The Garden's In....wheww.....

Well, I finally got my Garden in today. (Up here you're not supposed to plant until after Mother's Day, and Memorial Day is better....)

We're doing a small one this year, since by July or August I won't have much energy. So we've got 36 bean plants (the 3-year-old's personal project), 4 basil plants and 4 tomato plants. Well, also the herb garden of doom (2 kinds of mint and oregano hell-bent on dominating my back yard.)

I also picked up a few annuals for the front yard, because the girls like flowers and it's about time someone on my block bothered to plant some!

It was a loooong couple days of work. But it's in, we're happy, and once I have time to think I'll probably get a few good poems or an easy-read story out of the experience.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why I'm Glad I don't live in China!

Chinese Population-Control Crack Down

I read a REALLY great book about the situation in China a few months ago...

It was a really thoughtful look at how Chinese population control policies impact the lives of girls in rural families... and a quick read, too!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Back from a trip...

We just spent the last week in Illinois, sharing my in-laws' time share.

I didn't do any writing. I never do when I'm on vacation.

I always bring something along. I think "Great! No chores, extra adults, how can I NOT accomplish something?"

Then reality sets in. Vacation means: no childproofing, kids without a routine, and no quiet or privacy.

So absolutely nothing gets done, we get even LESS sleep than usual, and I come back wanting a vacation.

Luckily, we only have two more trips... then I get a break for the rest of my pregnancy and the first four months of baby #3's life...

So after I catch up on Laundry (A week's worth!) and the yard (It looks like a jungle!) I can catch up on writing....

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

She put it much better than I did!

Here's another post about the Mom's salary article...

It's a really entertaining rebuttal....

Jennifer Dziura's Rebuttal

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I'm worth $140,000 a year???

I don't think so. But these people do:

I did my own math here, using small-town rates of pay (and assuming that I really shouldn't get paid for when my husband's helping...)

This is what I came up with:

Housekeeping (not my strong suit, I admit) - $7.00/ hour for 4 hours a day
Teacher (I may be overestimating nursery school salaries here...) $14.00/ hour at 3 hours a day
Cook (more like Bob Evans, less like Emile) - $9.00/ hour for 3 hours a day
Secretary - $10.00 / hour for 1 hour a day....

Assuming I worked just as hard on vacations and weekends (I don't), I'd be worth $39,000 a year to replace... about what I'd be making if I had a full time job, actually!

I think the above calculation went wrong by assuming that the work I do is always top-notch professional quality...

I'm not doing abnormal psychology here.... I'm doing nursery school teacher level psychology....

And I'm not doing all the jobs listed at every moment...

For instance, I just spent 15 minutes reading the article, calculating my own pay, and writing it up..... This is CERTAINLY not pay worthy work! And I'm betting most stay-at-home Moms spend a lot of time not working... just in 15 minute chunks.

Articles like this one are just plain silly...

Time Wasted and Time Well Spent

I'm going to have to start limiting my use of the SCBWI message boards... I'm using them as an excuse to avoid difficult tasks.

On a positive note, thanks to the boards I've recently discovered

It's a really great site.... The editor is fairly harsh at times, but she's got some great advice... especially on how one should read kindly comments in rejection letters...
(Usually meaningless fluff... Read it and move on...)

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mommy Fashion Tip

Those glasses with the dark plastic frames are really great for hiding the kind of circles you get under your eyes when the kids haven't napped in three days but persist in going to bed at midnight and waking up at four am......

Just in case you were interested...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Frodo of the Nine Fingers, and the Queries of Doom

I hate writing queries. I’d rather be judged by my work, not by my description of my work.

But these days, queries are inescapable, at least if you want to reach some of the bigger publishers.

This week I have a stack of queries to send out. I need to finish writing them. So what have I been doing?

Lurking on the SCBWI boards, of course. And catching up on chores. And doing almost anything else imaginable so that I don’t have to spend time with queries…

Which means that tomorrow, I’ll have to spend a few hours with them, instead of getting to do them in small chunks... sigh…

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I just finished reading Bella at Midnight by Dianne Stanley. It was exactly what a middle grade fantasy novel should be. I wished I could have spent more time with the characters, there were references to famous fairy tales (especially Cinderella) but the plot wasn't hemmed in by them, and there was just enough romance to set a ten-year-old girls heart aflutter.

I think Stanley may be the next Robin McKinley... I know that my first impressions of Bella brought back memories of my first readings of The Hero and The Crown and The Blue Sword!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Market Research

One thing I love about writing for children is the "market research." It's a wonderful way to justify hanging around the new book shelves at the library.

Yesterday I picked up some great ones.

My kids have fallen in love with Pip and Squeak by Ian Schoenherr. The pictures are great- I never thought of snow as warm and welcoming before, but he makes it seem that way. The story is short and sweet, and the mice think just like toddlers!

I flew through A Dog for Life by L.S. Matthews. It was a short, thrilling journey across England. It touched on a number of serious issues: grieving, cancer, alternative medicine, animal experimentation and prejudice. I think it will leave kids wanting to think longer and harder about them, but it didn't get bogged down in delivering a message. I highly recommend it!

Monday, April 16, 2007

A great resource!!!

The Craft of Research

We've had this book for years and this is the first time I read it. It's great! The authors walk you through a research project, step by step. While not everything applies to historical fiction, there are some great hints on organizing your questions, attacking the problem, finding resources, taking notes and getting help.

I highly recommend it to other beginning researchers. It's a great help when you need to take a massive problem like "How do I write about this historical time period" and break it down into small, manageable chunks.

I'm doing my planning right now... I think it will save me a LOT of time in the long run...